The Baltimore Ravens’ win over the Cleveland Browns brings the team closer to sealing a wild-card spot in the postseason. In Week 15, the Ravens face the Jacksonville Jaguars at M&T Bank Stadium on Dec. 20 at 1 p.m. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
By Demetrius Dillard
Special to the AFRO
An exhilarating back-and-forth Week 14 exchange between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns was possibly the most suspenseful Monday Night Football matchup this season.
Ravens star quarterback Lamar Jackson was the story of the night. He completed 11 of 17 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown while recording a game-high 124 rushing yards for two touchdowns on nine carries to lead the Ravens to their second straight win.
When the game tied 42-42, Jackson drove the Ravens 38 yards to get within field goal range, and with two seconds left in regulation, kicker Justin Tucker drilled a 55-yard field goal, followed by a forced safety, to lift the Ravens to a 47-42 win at FirstEnergy Stadium on Dec. 14.
“That team over there is a really good football team. They had great heart, too. So, for our guys to be able to do that and to make those plays at the end when it counted the most, it just says so much about their character and who they are, their trust and their belief,” Ravens Coach John Harbugh said.
Baltimore improves to 8-5 with the win, and while it still holds a No. 3 spot in the AFC North division, playoff hopes are still alive if they close the regular season out with three consecutive victories.
As expected, the Ravens had their work cut out for them. The Browns came into the game winning eight of its last 10 contests, and even without Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. who is out for the season with a torn ACL, they have been playing superb football.
When Baltimore hosted Cleveland in the season opener, the Ravens cruised to a 38-6 win. But as the world saw on Dec. 14, the Browns went from getting decimated in Week 1 to looking like a playoff-caliber team toward the end of the season as they still hold a No. 2 AFC North ranking.
The Ravens and Browns are the league’s two leading rushing teams, so as many might have expected, both teams seemed to have put on a running clinic in spots. Baltimore got the major advantage, accruing 231 rushing yards to Cleveland’s 138. Additionally, Baltimore rushed for five of its six touchdowns while Cleveland rushed for four of its six scores.
While the game was an offensive clinic all around, the Ravens’ defense did what was necessary to prevent the Browns from too much of an edge on the scoreboard. Baltimore forced three fumbles in addition to linebacker Tyus Bowser’s interception that was returned for 17 yards.
Penalties affected both clubs equally as both totaled eight. Baltimore had the slight edge on third down conversions (6 of 11) over Cleveland (5 of 12). Leading the way for the Browns (9-4) was third-year quarterback Baker Mayfield, finishing with 343 yards on 28-of-47 passing for two touchdowns and an interception.
Mayfield brought the Browns back from a 34-20 deficit in the third quarter to a 35-34 lead about halfway through the fourth. Because Jackson was experiencing leg cramps, he headed to the locker room for treatment backup Trace McSorley took several snaps for the Ravens before going down with what appeared to be a knee injury late in the fourth.
When Jackson returned to the field from getting treated for cramps, he showed why he is still one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league, tossing a 44-yard touchdown to Marquise Brown that preceded the game-winning field goal.
“As soon as I saw him go down, I started running out of the locker room,” Jackson said in reference to McSorley’s injury.
“It’s crucial games for us right now. All I’m thinking about is winning that game… Our team fought hard. The offense played great today. We still have little things to clean up – we didn’t play a perfect game. But we’re where we want to be right now. We’re excelling right now.”
Next, Baltimore will square off against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who hold a 1-12 record. The odds lean heavily in favor of the Ravens, who were obliterated by the Jaguars 44-7 when the two last faced off on Sept 24, 2017.
A Week 15 win would move the Ravens closer to sealing a wild-card spot in the postseason. The game against the Jacksonville Jaguars will be at M&T Bank Stadium on Dec. 20 at 1 p.m.